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Getting Located: Three Weeks in Grenada

September 14, 2017

By Nicole Smythe-Johnson

As a Jamaican
one feels a priori entitled to Caribbean-ness. There’s a sense that “we are the Caribbean”. Even the other islands—their tourist shops filled with Bob Marley tote bags and “no problem mon” mugs—know it. When people think “Caribbean”, they think “Jamaica”. [1] I’m not trying to start a fight here. I’m just owning privilege, locating myself and being clear about my blind spots.

When I set out to travel the Caribbean then, I was a little too sure of myself. I knew I’d encounter new and surprising things, one always does in travel, but I thought I’d recognise more than I did. I thought I’d know more codes than I did. And I lost a little skin over it, because as I’ve told foreigners, so many times, “we are not all the same”. It’s hard to become the foreigner. It’s hard to accept the full weight of your un-knowing. Especially when you’re from a place that tourists routinely inundate, so that there’s a righteous edge to your claim of local-ness.

To my mind, I knew Grenada. I’d never been, but growing up on the University of the West Indies Mona campus, the tiny island state had become iconic of radical political activity in the English-speaking Caribbean. I knew about the revolution (1979-1983), the dashing Maurice Bishop. I’d been to the panel discussions, seen how even decades later they still devolved into finger-pointing indignation and charges of treachery. I had family that had lived in Grenada, friends from there. I’d eaten the exquisite chocolate, used the famous nutmeg pain-relieving spray. I knew Grenada.

What’s more, I’d often heard that Grenada was very similar to Jamaica. And it was, in some ways. In terms of landscape, Grenada is more like Jamaica than anywhere I’ve ever been, like my favourite parts of Jamaica anyway. The island is jewel green and mountainous with narrow roads that wind along contour lines. I felt “at home”—but not my everyday home in Kingston, stay-cation home, weekend-in-the-countryside home. So the familiarity was there, but not that of a local, that of a holiday-maker, what Jamaicans call a dry land tourist. [2]

“. . . its not Rasta, its the Grenadian flag. I felt foolish, tourist foolish.”

The red, green and gold only added to a growing sense of the uncanny. On my first day I went for a drive with my host, co-founder of Groundation, Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe. All along the road there were walls, rocks, curbs painted red, green and yellow. At first, that seemed natural. It would be in Jamaica, Rastas of course. It wasn’t until Malaika said, “It was just Independence day, so everything is decorated in Grenadian colours” that I realised its not Rasta, its the Grenadian flag. I felt foolish, tourist foolish.

I remember regular (often joking, sometimes very serious) charges of “Jamaican cultural imperialism” in my American college’s Caribbean Students’ Association meetings. It was part of my motivation for applying for the Tilting Axis Fellowship, exploring the way Jamaican (cultural) hegemony within the English-speaking Caribbean might blinder my breadth as a “Caribbean thinker” (whatever that might mean). I’d often rolled my eyes at visiting curators who seemed to confuse their work trip to the Caribbean with a vacation. Or the ones too busy looking for what they expected to find, to engage what they were in fact encountering. Yet here I was, foolish by my own standards, thinking all the foreign curator things.

There were also the kites. In much of the Caribbean it is customary to fly kites around Easter; it tends to be windier at that time of year, though some also argue for a symbolic connection between kites and Christ’s resurrection. In the Southern Caribbean there’s an additional element though, and I’d heard about this but I didn’t understand it until I spent two weeks living on a hill in St David’s (about half hour east of the capital, St George’s). In addition to your standard kite flying, which makes a gentle flapping noise if any at all, Grenadian fliers do not land their kites when they’re done for the day, instead they tie them to tree limbs and the kites continue to fly from that anchor for days. They add a little flap of paper to the nose of the kite (Grenadians call it the “mad-bull”) that flaps in the wind, making the strangest noise; a whirring sound that I’ve heard people from the Southern Caribbean liken to a mosquito flying right by your ear. I didn’t find it quite that annoying, but then I don’t have to live with it. I’ve never heard that sound in Jamaica; I don’t think we have that tradition. The first time I heard it, I thought it was chanting. That would be the likely explanation in the hills of Jamaica, just your run of the mill natural mystic blowing through the air. I kept asking, “what’s that noise?” To which everyone would reply, “what noise?” It took a few days to bridge the gap.

“In a way, Grenada looking like Jamaica was part of the difficulty. It looked so much like home that I couldn’t get used to the idea that it was as safe as I was assured it was.”

There were other more practical confusions. Transport was an ongoing trial. Public transport is good around St George’s and Grand Anse, but not outside that. Elsewhere, buses were unscheduled and infrequent, especially on weekends and at night. So that even if I did brave the quiet, largely bush-lined, tree-canopied dirt road, with the barking dogs that rush at you teeth-bared, I’d wait at the bus stop on the main road for an unknowable period. It was worse if you got home after sundown at around six, since the road was not lit for a good stretch. In a way, Grenada looking like Jamaica was part of the difficulty. It looked so much like home that I couldn’t get used to the idea that it was as safe as I was assured it was. “Lone woman walking on a dark country road” sounded like the opening line of a suspense thriller screenplay to me. Yet, no one seemed to share my anxiety about the dogs, or the possibility of being brutally murdered and buried in the bush somewhere.

On my hosts’ advice, I made a few attempts, but my body betrayed me. I could not keep my heart rate even, or stop my palms from sweating. My eyes seemed to dart over my shoulder of their own accord. It’s the point at which “street smarts” become an auto-immune disorder. It didn’t seem worth fighting to over-ride what Jamaicans euphemistically call “safety-consciousness” either, I would be headed back to Kingston soon enough. Grenadian taxis are London black cab expensive. And though many Grenadians hitchhike, my safety-conscious body would not be won over on that point either. So for my last week I migrated to Grand Anse. Accommodation in the touristy area just south of St George’s strained the budget, but I could get to and from town by bus within 15 to 20 minutes, even on a Sunday. The ease of movement, and the familiarity of (relatively) busy, well-lit streets made all the difference.

Navigating the “art scene” required similar adjustments. Before I arrived, I revisited a presentation I gave in Glasgow, thinking it might serve as a skeleton for a presentation in Grenada, but within days I could tell I would need to go back to the drawing board. I’d spent a month in Scotland thinking about whether that context could yield any insights relevant to the relatively under-resourced Caribbean contexts I’ve worked in (Kingston, Port-of-Spain, Nassau). My Grenada trip made me wonder how relevant a Jamaican or Trinidadian context could be for Grenada, or St. Vincent and the Grenadines, or St Kitts. I could not find a way in; no cafes frequented by “creative types”, few galleries (and those that existed seemed geared toward tourists and ex-pats). Grenada put my thesis to the test. Is there an artistic community without dedicated “spaces”, does a “scene” exist even if I cannot perceive its nodes? What is the architecture of that network-community and how might a curator engage its by-ways.

I was heartened to find that Groundation was asking the same questions. Founded in 2009 by yoga therapist and artist Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe and human rights lawyer Richie Maitland, the organisation describes itself as “a social action collective [that] focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth.” [3] Since then, they’ve established a board of collaborators- which includes Feminist Labour Advocate, Kimalee Phillip and Youth and Literacy Advocate, Ayisha John- and piloted several projects that straddle creative practice and social justice.

In 2013, they partnered with author Oonya Kempadoo and the Mt. Zion Full Gospel Revival Ministry to found the Mount Zion Community Library, a response to the closure of the Grenada National Library. The National Library was housed in an eighteenth century building on the Carenage waterfront in St George’s that deteriorated so badly it became unsafe for use and was closed in 2011. The library also houses the national archives, which remain in the building at considerable risk.

Groundation is known for their LGBTQ activism, so a “Gospel Revival Ministry” seemed an odd bedfellow. According to Groundation board member Ayisha John, it was Oonya Kempadoo who connected Groundation with Pastor Clifford John and Cessell Greenidge, founders of Mount Zion Full Gospel Revival Ministry. For the first few years, the church donated space in their building for use by the library. The project has since been handed over to it’s own dedicated board, moved to a larger space, and renamed The Grenada Community Library.

In 2014, Groundation also collaborated with ARC Magazine on Forgetting is not an Option, a “collaborative cultural memory project” aiming to develop and archive creative work about the Grenadian Revolution. The programme included a four-day programme of panels on art and activism, a film night, and art and creative writing workshops. In 2015 they launched their Discrimination is Discrimination project, a series of posters featuring homophobic dancehall and soca music lyrics adjusted to target another group- Rastas, Black or Indian people etc.

In October 2015 they worked with GRENCHAP (Grenada’s chapter of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Partnership) to make a presentation on behalf of the islands’ LGBTI community at a hearing of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights in Washington DC.

After the disappointing loss of a grant in 2016—due to the islands’ banks refusal to do business with the relatively controversial organisation, leaving them without a bank account and formal financial infrastructure—Groundation was pausing to re-assess their direction. In particular, they were trying to get a realistic picture of their context and their place within it. Who are they serving? Why? How?

I became a sounding board for that process. I indulged my amateurism, carefully noting my confusions and misconceptions, and sharing them with the Groundation team as a way to expand my knowledge while sharing my enthusiasm and sense of possibility: a luxury of the fresh-eyed and bushy-tailed. I also met with a number artists and writers to talk with them about their sense of the Grenadian arts landscape.

“. . . everyone lamented a lack of peers, a feeling of isolation in their practices.”

A recurring theme in all my discussions was the lack of an “artistic community”. Though Groundation provided me with a list of recommendations of people to meet, and many of those people referred me to other artists, writers, fashion designers and so on, everyone lamented a lack of peers, a feeling of isolation in their practices. Cultivating a sense of community was also among Groundation’s desired outcomes for their arts programming. Given their focus on arts and human rights activism (particularly LGBTQ rights), I had already been thinking about Groundation in parallel with Glasgow-based Arika, which I’d visited earlier in that year (see this earlier essay for details). The team and I began looking at Arika’s Episodes and thinking about their deployment of art as “aesthetic register of sociality”. It seemed that a register of sociality—that is, a manifestation of the social possibilities generated by people talking, eating, dancing, imagining together—might be just the thing to jumpstart a new phase of programming. Additionally, the Episodes were not art object focused, instead they integrated a whole range of collaborators—deejays, writers, activists, performers etc. This seemed in line with the Groundation team’s interdisciplinary background and approach.

In one of our conversations, Malaika came up with the idea of a town hall meeting. Over a few days, we massaged that into something less formal, more like a lime. [4] We did not want to impose a structure; we wanted to make existing structures visible. We wanted to shift the focus from what was not there, to what was; tilting the axis of the conversations we’d been having. A lime—that typically Caribbean form of open-ended sociality—seemed like as good a model as any.

Initially, I did not want to do the event in a gallery: I hoped for a bar or some other non-art specific space. To get conversation going, I planned to give a brief presentation about my work and what brought me to Grenada. I wanted to experiment with doing that outside of an institutional art context, in hopes that it would help me escape an institutional style—focused on demonstration of expertise—in favour of a genuine invitation to dialogue, in line with my research interests in counter-publics, usership and so on. [5] Malaika disagreed. We’d talked about how the few galleries in Grenada did not seem geared toward Grenadians so much as to ex-pats and tourists. She thought it was more important to take possession of the gallery, reframing it as a space that could have utility for Grenadians. The idea of a gallery as an artists’ town hall also appealed, particularly after hearing Collective’s Kate Gray talk about how a visual arts organisation could position itself as a “resource” or “tool” for a city/town/island. We decided to approach Meg Conlon. She had a gallery called Art Upstairs just off the Carenage in a beautiful old building that was once a courthouse.

To keep things playful (and overheads low), Malaika hand-drew the flyers and we photocopied them on coloured paper. We shared digital versions via Instagram, Facebook and the Groundation website. We provided a few refreshments, but put a request for people to bring snacks and drinks on the flyers. I recommended the BYOB (bring your own bottle) approach as a way to invite participants to own the proceedings and take liberties in shaping them.

The first half of the event was split between my presentation and more structured group discussions around specific questions. I talked about my research interest in art within the broadest possible frame, untethered by the white cube and even the exhibition. I pointed out interesting projects across the region like Beta Local’s La Ivan Illichand Walking Seminar programmes, highlighting their sensitivity to context. I also talked about Arika’s Episodes and explained the rationale behind the Lime, making reference to the various practices I’d encountered since my arrival in Grenada and the potential I saw for collaboration and programme development. The second half was more informal, with people chatting in groups, exchanging contacts, and sharing their work. Thankfully, people drank, ate and affably interrupted the facilitators (Malaika Brooks Smith Lowe and I) and each other all throughout the proceedings.

“How am I measuring success? People had a good time, they got heated and excited, they engaged each other, and came to consider themselves a part of a group, united by a shared interest in unleashing and celebrating creative activity in Grenada. I cannot say how that will evolve, what concrete initiatives will emerge from it. I can only say that practices that may have seemed isolated and irrelevant, found themselves connected and valued.”

There were just over 30 participants, ranging in age from teenagers to people in their sixties, and it was successful enough that Groundation held another Lime shortly after my departure, this time on the beach. How am I measuring success? People had a good time, they got heated and excited, they engaged each other, and came to consider themselves a part of a group, united by a shared interest in unleashing and celebrating creative activity in Grenada. I cannot say how that will evolve, what concrete initiatives will emerge from it. I can only say that practices that may have seemed isolated and irrelevant, found themselves connected and valued. New possibilities came into view, and the revelation of new possibilities is precisely the link between creative activity and social change that Groundation seeks to activate through their programming.

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We also decided to develop an online survey that would collect basic biographical and professional info on artists in Grenada. Things like the area they live in, their educational background, had they ever applied for or been granted funding? The idea came from research on the Jamaican art scenethat NLS Kingston, an experimental art space in Jamaica, first carried out in 2012. At the time, NLS was less than a year old and artist-director Deborah Anzinger had just moved back to Jamaica after living in the US for about a decade. She knew she wanted to start a space, but she wanted to be deliberate about developing programming that responded to local conditions. Sixty-four artists completed NLS’s survey, and the organisation was left with a bank of data that helped them determine their programming focus.

“In the absence of an accredited art school, a gallery system that supports regular exhibitions, or any other dedicated space for artistic experimentation and engagement; few practitioners consider themselves professional artists.”

The Groundation survey was not as successful. At time of writing only 12 artists have completed the survey and while Grenada’s population of just over 100,000 is substantially smaller than Jamaica’s approximately 2.8 million, 12 does not seem a large enough number from which to deduce anything. I think the survey could have been promoted more widely and for a longer period of time via Groundation’s social media and website, but the problem may also be with the approach. For one, the survey assumes that artists would be computer literate and have Internet access. Additionally, given the size of the population it may have been smarter to do a survey that targeted a broader category than “visual artists”, maybe “cultural producers” or “creatives”. In the absence of an accredited art school, a gallery system that supports regular exhibitions, or any other dedicated space for artistic experimentation and engagement; few practitioners consider themselves professional artists.

At the Lime for example, several people approached me to ask if their practices qualified them as “visual artists”. There were people like Jane Nurse, a textile designer with an MA in Environmental Science and a day job as a tour guide and translator, and Kenroy George who’d worked as a web developer in New York and coordinated an annual music festival in Morocco (Oasis Festival) before returning to Grenada to start an all-natural skincare line (Numad) and co-found an organisation to support entrepreneurship (GrenStart), all while sitting on the board of the Grenada National Trust. There was Neisha La Touche, a lifestyle blogger and carnival costume designer, and Vanel Cuffie, a figurative painter looking for ways to make a living from his work outside of a gallery context. Cuffie struck me as particularly enterprising, having developed an app that sells his work as smartphone wallpaper, and a line of attractive pocket tees featuring his work.

As Arika had suggested in my conversation with them, “community” could be just as confining as it was sustaining. The delineation of a discrete “artistic community” seemed inappropriate for the Grenadian context. And further, if we are working with a definition of art that is beyond the art object, should the definition of “artist” not expand as well?

All this is not to say that there aren’t artists working more conventionally, by Euro-American standards, in Grenada. Susan Mains and her son Asher for example, are both artists and they run the Art and Soul Gallery in Spiceland Mall in Grand Anse. Like Art UpstairsArt and Soul exhibits the work of Grenadian and Grenada-based artists but in a strictly commercial sense, with less focus on the discursive potential of the exhibition format. The gallery does host several exhibitions per year however, along with regular “pop-up” events that function as mini-art fairs with booths offered to artists, rather than galleries, free of charge.

Susan Mains is also a member of the Grenada Arts Council and commissioner of the Grenada National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Grenada has had an official pavilion at both the 2015 and 2017 Biennales. Though it is a laudable achievement, it is a bit disappointing that only two of the eight artists included in the 2017 exhibition, titled The Bridge in reference to “global dialogues,” are Grenadian: Asher Mains and Milton Williams. It is not unheard of for a national pavilion to feature artists from elsewhere, but it does attract criticism, particularly when the pavilion is that of an under-represented nation exhibiting the work of artists from nations that are well represented. A famous recent case is the 2013 and 2015 Kenyan Pavilions, which were dominated by Chinese artists. [6]

I have not seen The Bridge. I’ve seen a few images of Asher Mains’, Milton Williams’, British artist Jason deCaires Taylor’s and Brazilian Alexandre Murucci’s work, and a ten minute video on the Grenada Pavilion website provided me with some insight into Khaled Hafez (France), Rashid Al Kahlifa (Bahrain), Mahmoud Obaidi (Canada/Iraq), and Zena Assi’s (Lebanon) work. While deCaires Taylor’s installation references the underwater sculpture park he founded off the west coast of Grenada while living there, I could not detect the connection between the work of any of the other non-Grenadian artists and Grenada in particular. Curator Omar Donia’s statement describes the show as two conversations, one in “Nature and Preservation” and another in “War and Conflict”, but the link between those two conversations, and with Grenada remains obscure: “We are a tiny particle of sand in an endless sandy beach, ever changing with the vagaries of man and the environment.” [7] Reviews do not hint at those links either. Press coverage of The Bridge was dominated by the striking similarity between deCaires Taylor’s installation and British artist Damien Hirst’s blockbuster Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable. [8]

The approach taken by first time Venice participants Antigua and Barbuda on the other hand, guided by art historian and collector Barbara Paca, seems a more pertinent engagement with La Biennale and the narrative of global art history that it indexes. Where the Grenadian Pavilion rings a bit hollow, the Antiguan Pavilion went with a solo exhibition of the work of seminal Antiguan artist and polymathic eccentric Frank Walter (1926 – 2009). The exhibition, which includes paintings, sculpture, audio recordings and writing, highlights the expanse that has been over-written by global art history, gesturing towards the limitations of that narrative project, rather than attempting to integrate via a dilution of difference.

Grenadian artists like Canute Caliste (1914 – 2005) and Doliver Morain (b. 1959) would be excellent subjects for this kind of art historical research and curatorial treatment. Not because Walter, Caliste and Morain could all be described as folk or “outsider” artists, but because their practices illustrate the specificity of the Caribbean context. A context in which, as art historian Veerle Poupeye has written of Jamaican art history, artists who would elsewhere be defined as outsiders have become the “ultimate cultural insiders”. [9]

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There aren’t many exhibition opportunities in Grenada, and few creative producers maintain the kind of studio practice that could sustain a range of galleries, but popular art is everywhere. Projects in Trinidad like designers Kriston Chen, Agyei Archer and Debbie Estwick’s collaboration with sign painter Bruce Cayonne—using fete signs as inspiration for an indigenous Trinidadian typeface and material for a line of notebooks— are excellent models for developing projects that explore what contemporary art might mean in Grenada. Bahamian Blue Curry and Trinidadian Christopher Cozier’s curatorial project Out of Place (2016) is another model for thinking art beyond the art object and beyond the gallery. The two developed a series of “artistic actions” engaging the yard’s Port-of-Spain neighbourhood in collaboration with other artists. [10] The project sought to ask three questions:

How can we shift the encounter of visual objects or actions to more public spaces?

How can we alter or widen the way we understand the visual by dissolving received traditional boundaries between the object or action, its maker, and the viewer — untangling the idea of authorship?

How can we stage and engage the artistic process as a record of a creative or investigative action, as an experiential event available to everyone, rather than as a commodity, exclusively?

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To my mind, this kind of interrogation seems more relevant to contemporary art in Grenada than a Venice Pavilion. That is not to say that a pavilion is not a worthy project. It does put Grenada on the map, so to speak, but that’s only compelling if you submit to the idea that the map (of global art) is drawn in Venice. If however, you are interested in tilting the axis, you might prefer to question the ‘meta’ of that narrative, to tease out and challenge its epistemological underpinnings. Presenting a show that functions as a disruption of that epistemology, through some art historical intervention—as I would argue the Antiguan Pavilion does—is one way to approach that. The institutional and formal interrogation of a project like Out of Place is another way to undermine an epistemological approach to art that does not accommodate Grenada’s (and much of the world’s) realities. My practice is one of identifying and generating other possible interventions in the mapping of ‘global art’ (who does it, how, why) from the perspective of the othered space, the outpost, or in Caribbean parlance those “back of God’s ear” spots.

When I met with Susan Mains she told me about the Grenada Contemporary open call and exhibition—put on by the Grenada Arts Council in partnership with the Art and Soul Gallery—  from which the Grenadian artists included in The Bridge were selected. She expressed a desire for more artists to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the open call. I did not think of it then, but looking back now, I wonder if the open call does not suffer from the same problem as our survey. Perhaps the arts council should consider shaping opportunities like Venice to suit Grenada, rather than attempting to fit Grenada to Venice’s model. What might a broader call (beyond the narrow category of visual artist) leading to a presence at the Biennale—it might be interesting to think outside of the exhibition format in its strictest sense—yield? Or, an exhibition that reflects Grenada’s rich popular art traditions or engages its still contentious and unfolding political history—another indication of the significance of grassroots agency and popular activism within the Grenadian imaginary.

For my part, during my visit I could not stop imagining a grand public art-popular painting street festival. If the government donates paint to the communities every Independence, what would a semi-structured collaboration between the island’s sign-painters, muralists, designers etc etc and these neighbourhoods look like? It’s a simple idea; just a deliberate zeroing in on a practice that is already widespread. It could be an on-going programme, anchored with events that might evolve into a kind of street festival celebrating local creatives. Let me be clear, these imaginings are not to be understood as a prescription. They are merely imaginings, voiced (in this text, at the Lime and in multiple one-on-one conversations with Grenadian creative producers) more as a question, a kind of conversation prompt than anything. Because, like the sound of kites, I’m not terribly familiar and I don’t have to live with it.

My hope is that having initiated those conversations, with Groundation and the broader community, I will have supported my host organisation and other Grenadian creatives in developing a genuinely home-grown approach to arts organising.

[Your Opinion] Grenada’s Marijuana Laws

April 16, 2017

Caribbean Unity in support of Tambourine Army activist Latoya Nugent

March 23, 2017

As concerned members of the Caribbean region and diaspora, we are outraged by the unreasonable and absurd charges of three counts of “malicious communication” under Section 9 (1) of the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 by the Jamaican state towards human rights defender and activist, Latoya Nugent. We are also outraged by the unfair treatment and hostility demonstrated during her arrest in which she was denied medical attention when needed. Further, we believe, as other activists across the region, that Latoya is being charged in direct response to her activism against sexual violence. Specifically, she is being targeted for calling out perpetrators of violence. We are relieved at the most recent news (22nd March) that Latoya’s bail has been extended, yet she still faces charges in court as the Jamaican state attempts to silence her work and the work of other human rights activists. We believe that Latoya is innocent of the charges, and we support her intention to fight them.


We stand with Latoya Nugent and the Tambourine Army. We hope that she will be vindicated by the court. The work of the Tambourine Army is critical to uprooting the scourge of sexual violence and securing the rights and freedom of women and children in Jamaica. This work reflects the recent movement building across the region to end gender based violence. The focus in Jamaica led by the Tambourine Army is on survivor empowerment and breaking silence around sexual abuse and violence against women and girls. This is necessary work in creating change in our communities across the region. The Jamaican state ought to be supporting these efforts instead of targeting activists who dare to speak out against violence.


What happened to Latoya is not specific to Jamaica. Across the Caribbean region, we see an increasing attempt to enact cyber crime and repressive legislation that fails to protect the most vulnerable and the most marginalized in our communities; and instead attempts to silence and criminalize dissent and human rights organizing. When inappropriate images and videos of young girls, boys and children are widely distributed across the internet, the state’s commitment to its own legislation and to human rights remains silent. When lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex people are bullied and harassed online, where is the state’s commitment to human rights and to its people? The state should not be able to pick and choose whose rights are worth protecting and whose lives are not.


We recognize that the internet is often used as a space for human rights defenders to disseminate information, organize, advocate and mobilize. Accordingly, what we need are digital security frameworks that not only centre, but that protect, human rights. The Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) in its “Our Right to Safety Report”, noted the numbers of “[…] cases in which human rights defenders have been charged with defamation and, in some cases, blasphemy because they have published articles, blog entries or tweets or expressed opinions in public.” Death threats, online stalking, image manipulation and harassment continue to be directed towards human rights defenders through the use of text messages, emails and other digital media platforms. This underscores the need to decriminalize online dissent; we don’t need to be criminalized, we must be protected!


We are all impacted by Latoya’s arrest. As democratic spaces across the Caribbean region continue to shrink, in addition to being accompanied by increasing police and state surveillance and repression, we recognize the urgency and necessity of maintaining spaces for civil disobedience and organizing. We demand that our fundamental human right to resist and mobilize be respected. And we call upon the government of Jamaica, specifically the Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn who has taken an interest in this case, to drop all charges against Latoya Nugent.


When the state becomes preoccupied with arresting human rights defenders instead of advocating for the welfare of its people, we the people, are no longer a priority. It is time that we all become a priority. We will not waiver in our support for Latoya. We will remain steadfast in our commitment to human rights and justice. Even when our voices break, we will not be silenced. As Assata Shakur reminds us:


“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”


In solidarity and support,


Kimalee Phillip, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Samantha Peters, advocate and educator

Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe, co-founder Groundation Grenada

Damarlie Antoine, educator and feminist

Ayisha John, Groundation Grenada

KizzyAnn Abraham, advocate for Key Populations

Maureen St.Clair, peace educator/activist/artist

Angelique V. Nixon, CAISO sex & gender justice; IGDS UWI Trinidad

Stephanie Leitch, Founder WOMANTRA

Beverly Bain, Lecturer, Feminist activist and educator, University of Toronto

Nicole Hendrickson, co-founder & lead organiser Firecircle

Attillah Springer, writer and activist; Say Something TT

Tonya Haynes, Code Red & Catchafyah Feminist Network; IGDS UWI Barbados

Peter Weller, Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN) Jamaica

Amina Doherty, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Caroline Allen, Researcher on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Alicia Wallace, Director, Equality Bahamas

Gabrielle Hosein, CAFRA; IGDS UWI Trinidad

Hazel Brown, Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women

Renuka Anandjit, IGDS UWI Trinidad

Sunity Maharaj, Side by Side, Trinidad and Tobago

Elysse Marcellin, independent activist

Tyrone Buckmire, Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN) Grenada

Abbas Mancey, Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN) Guyana/ Canada

Marlon Bascombe, Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN) Trinidad and Tobago

Vidyaratha Kissoon, Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN) Guyana

Jamaican curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson visits Grenada

March 21, 2017

Nicole Smythe-Johnson, Inaugural Tilting Axis Fellow 2017

Jamaican writer and independent curator, Nicole Smythe-Johnson, is currently visiting Grenada as the inaugural Tilting Axis Fellow. Hosted locally by Groundation Grenada, Nicole’s research focuses on Caribbean curatorial practice, particularly as it occurs in artist-run and other non-traditional art spaces.

Groundation Grenada is collaborating with Nicole to host an Artist Town Hall Lime, at which she will talk about her work and invite local voices to discuss the needs, challenges and opportunities around creating art in Grenada.

This event will take place on Thursday March 23rd 2017 from 5 – 7:30pm at the Art Upstairs Gallery on the Carenage (near Courts). All artists and art interested folks are warmly invited to join this community gathering and bring drink or snack to share.

If you are a visual artist in Grenada please take a few minutes to complete Groundation Grenada’s brief online survey, which will help paint a picture of the needs of the local art community. As part of the fellowship, Nicole has offered to review local artists’ portfolios and provide critical feedback on their work.

Submit a request for your free portfolio review by midnight Thurs. March 23rd. First come, first serve. 


Things you find in the sea #grenada #tiltingaxisfellowship

A post shared by Nicole Smythe-Johnson (@wordsmythen) on


Nicole has written for ARC magazine, Miami Rail, Flash Art, Jamaica Journal and several other local and international publications. She is currently Assistant Curator on an exhibition of the work of Jamaican painter John Dunkley at the Perez Art Museum in Miami opening May 2017. Apart from Grenada, Nicole’s journey of exploring innovative art space will take her to Puerto Rico, Barbados and Suriname, as part of her Tilting Axis Fellowship. This fellowship is in partnership with CCA Glasgow, David Dale Gallery and Studios, Hospitalfield, Mother Tongue and Tilting Axis. Supported by British Council Scotland.

Get in touch with Nicole:


cropped-cropped-cropped-realgroundationlogo1.jpgGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.

Give us Barrabas: on the planned and unjustified crucifixion of Bill 6

November 23, 2016

Dream Variations (Langston Hughes Series), Benny Andrews

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished.  And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”….

But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

They said, “Barabbas!”

 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”


Were this not the year of impossibilities becoming possible, scarcely would I have believed that a bill that promises fundamental rights for Grenadian citizens, would be on the brink of crucifixion.

That this bill may die a swift death as a result of deliberate misinformation and untruths peddled by today’s ‘elders’ and ‘chief priests’ is a travesty. Even more troubling is the penchant for those who lead this charge in killing the bill, to be arrogant in their lack of reasoning and so obstinate in their belligerence that they cannot see the irony in claiming that a certain sector of the community is bullying the public into voting yes, when they have themselves been harrying and hounding the public into voting no, with no credible justification (at least none that I have seen).

The story of Barrabas is apposite in this regard. The Jews, having been given the opportunity to vote for Jesus, to have the benefit of a man who would continue to give sight given to the blind, to heal the lame, and to perform miracles, were convinced, at the instigation and persuasion of certain ‘elders’, to vote instead for a man who was a known rioter and criminal. 

The parallels are uncanny today. Grenadian citizens are being assaulted by daily virulent Facebook posts and intimidating social media messages over many weeks and months to vote for Barrabas- i.e. contrary to a bill that accords long overdue rights to them, on the premise that it is their Christian duty to do so.  Doubtless, in my view, voting no is possibly one of the most unchristian and uncharitable acts one can do.

What does a vote for No mean?

I say so because a vote for no means denying some of the most vulnerable and deserving in society, essential rights. Aren’t Christians called to minister to minister to the same?

Voting no is saying that discrimination against disabled people is not deserving of constitutional protection and neither should the principle that men and women should have equal rights and should be treated as such.

Voting no means that government can restrain the press and that discrimination can continue based on party lines such that jobs, scholarships and assistance can be denied to non-party supporters, without any recourse to a remedy. This happens frequently.

Voting no means saying no to basic constitutional rights (including the right to a lawyer) for individuals who are under arrest, when for years the public have been agitating for more police accountability, particularly in the light of the notorious killing of Oscar Bartholomew and the many accounts from members of the public who have been subject to abuses in the prison and judicial system. These are rights that have existed for decades in other countries and it is shameful that we are only just obtaining the benefit.

It is a vote to reject the government exercising financial and fiscal responsibility when so many have had complaints over alleged corruption and wastefulness.

Essentially, voting no means that we prefer to have constitutional rights as we saw them in 1974, and that the last forty years do not matter. This is a sad and disappointing given that another opportunity for constitutional reform is unlikely to come around for decades. If we vote no, we would have chosen to reside in our Janet-house of rights when the world around us has moved on to casting their houses in more sturdy brick.

Why is it important that these rights are protected by the constitution?

Many people are questioning whether the protected rights necessarily need to be protected by the constitution. Elevating these rights to constitutional rights means that these rights are the supreme law of the land, and that they represent our values.

The government would be obliged to legislate in accordance with those rights and any laws that are contrary to those rights would be vulnerable to being struck down. Voting yes therefore empowers Grenadian citizens to be able to take concrete action against discrimination; this can only be a good thing.

The so-called ‘gay agenda’, gender identity and gender equality

I chose to focus on what a ‘no’ vote would mean, because its significance has been overtaken by a number of disingenuous arguments relating to gender equality and a so-called ‘gay agenda’.

In a nutshell, fringe ‘church leaders’ have seized on the term gender equality in Bill 6, and have propagated the view that gender equality somehow provides a route to gay marriage and the accordance of rights to LGBTQ persons.

When asked to articulate their concerns, not one of these leaders appears to be able to explain how this is possible, particularly since (i) the bill does not contain any reference to gay rights at all and (ii) rights based on sexual orientation were expressly excluded in the wording of the bill (based on their rejection at the initial consultation stages).

The opponents have recently changed their tack, and concerns are now apparently expressed that persons may potentially use the bill to suggest that ‘third gender’ protections should be extended to persons who have gender identity issues. With respect, this latest suggestion smacks of desperation and rests on over-exaggeration and  three fallacies, without prejudice to my own personal beliefs.

The exaggeration is that such an extension is entirely hypothetical, and in a population of 100,000, extremely unlikely.  Only 1 in 30,000 people in the West experience gender dysmorphia. To strike down a bill on the basis that at best, approximately 3 persons in Grenada might choose to bring a speculative claim is ludicrous. And to take this argument to its natural conclusion, if this is our position, shouldn’t we deny all other rights such as rights to privacy and rights to sexual and reproductive health access to the entire population, on the off-chance that someone with a lifestyle or a belief with which we do not agree, may take advantage of those rights? The very suggestion of a no vote on this ground is obviously cruel, oppressive  and disproportionate.

On to the fallacies.

First, gender identity is not the same as gender equality and the two are disparate concepts.  A vote for gender equality is not a vote in favour of persons being able to choose or define gender.

Second, no evidence has been put forward that gender equality has been extended universally to person claiming third gender rights. I know of a single case in India where a third gender has been recognised, but this is in light of existing cultural and religious Hindu beliefs in a third gender as of right. Hindu philosophy has the concept of a third sex or third gender (tritiya-prakriti – literally, “third nature”) to encompass people with mixed female and masculine natures. We do not share this culture or religion so a fear of incorporation of this concept is largely unfounded.

Third and finally, although the constitution is interpreted as a living document, it has been completely ignored that the aim of including gender equality rights is to reflect the universal concept enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights since 1948 to mean equal treatment and non-discrimination between women and men.

This has recently been re-articulated by the UN Sustainable Goals. Gender equality, as understood for many decades, is not a principle we ought to be afraid of; its aim is to empower our women and girls in our society so that laws are enacted for equal access to, inter alia, health care, work, pensions and representation in political and economic decision-making. Gender equality is in fact, one of the proud legacies of the Grenada Revolution and we should be proud that it has now made its way into our constitution.

Its constitutionalisation opens a route for, inter alia, improved maternity rights and the implementation of paternity rights, an end to indirect discrimination against women in relation to wages (i.e. jobs that require similar skill sets being paid differently,) and better access to reproductive rights to young women, some of whom may be victims of incest or sexual exploitation. These rights are invaluable.


It is my hope that, tomorrow, citizens of Grenada exercise their rights to vote in an informed manner and that they will realise that there is nothing to fear from the constitutionalisation of fundamental rights, contrary to the instigation of the ‘elders’.  I hope we do not choose Barrabas.

Written by Akima Paul Lambert

Bill 6: Hate and Intolerance Must Not Win

November 6, 2016

Painting by William H. Johnson

In recent weeks I have followed with shock and dismay as the discourse concerning the Rights and Freedoms Bill (Bill 6) of the upcoming Grenada Constitution Reform referendum has sunk to depraved depths. There are two elements that have been particularly sad to witness. The first is the indiscriminate spreading of fallacies regarding the bill itself. The second is the intolerance and hate that has dominated the conversation. I will discuss each in turn.

The key trigger that has fermented this homophobic discourse to once again and allowed it to rear its ugly head in our beautiful land is the inclusion of gender equality in Bill 6. Here is where the fallacies and an uncritical public have allowed this discourse to degenerate into what is at best illogical and at worst harmful for everyone involved.

The Rights and Freedoms Bill, while a legislative instrument, is actually written in fairly plain language and should therefore be accessible to most people without expert interpretation. As such, anyone who has taken the time and effort to read the bill will note that the section on gender equality deals exclusively and, in very simplistic terms, with the fact that women should be granted the same rights as men in society. A notion that seems simple and at face value even trivial to some, however, the reason why women’s rights need to be enshrined constitutionally is precisely because on so many levels women are not seen or treated as equals in society.

It is important to note that, in its entirety, the bill does absolutely nothing to open the floodgates, as its critics would have it, to the rights of sexual minorities (e.g. gender neutral persons) and, much less so with any regards to or rights of would be same-sex couples. It therefore beggars belief how some would interpret this portion of the bill to mean anything other than is written in the bill’s plain language. Knowing the prevailing views on homosexuality in Grenadian society, it is even more unlikely that those drafting the bill would have even contemplated to embed such a possibility in the bill in the first place – knowing full well that it would be politically untenable.

This particular fallacy acts as a double-edged sword, and herein lays the true tragedy. Not only do the detractors of Bill 6 ignore, if not diminish, the real issues facing women in Grenadian society but they also ignore the numerous other fundamental rights and freedoms that would be granted to citizens with the passage of this bill. They somehow see the element gender equality as so terrible, so evil that it may on the off chance lead to rights for sexual minorities, which it clearly does not do. In following this perverted fallacy, some are willing rob the rest of society and future generations of even the most basic constitutionally protected rights.

It is here that the fallacies concerning Bill 6 and hate for sexual minorities have mixed to spread like wildfire on social media. Hate is a very strong, visceral word and some of the comments made simply cannot be interpreted otherwise. Any reasonable human being reading such comments should be appalled, those writing them should be ashamed.

It is most unfortunate that this hate and intolerance is being driven, quite vocally in some cases, by a portion of religious groups in our society. The result is utterly paradoxical and perverted: In order to defend the rights of women and the fundamental rights proposed in Bill 6, one is placed in a position that requires detraction from the very rights of the sexual minorities that are not included in the bill.

This is where the unreasonable nature of this discussion becomes downright harmful. We must ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, what we value most. Are the rights of our mothers, daughters and sisters secondary to that of men in society, should their rights not be constitutionally protected? Do we not want the constitutionally protected right to speak to an attorney if arrested by the police? Should those who seek to rightfully challenge the people we vote into power not be constitutionally protected to speak freely without fear of retribution? Do we not desire to protect the vulnerable such as children and those with disabilities and ensure that the highest law in the land constitutionally protects them too? We are a small island nation with limited resources and we depend on our environment for virtually every part of our economy – tourism, fishing, agriculture, and construction. Should the protection of our environment not also be constitutionally protected so as to safeguard our future?

It is important to remind ourselves that these rights, on which as a society we are to vote, are not simply acts of parliament that can be altered or repealed by future administrations but rights that should become constitutionally protected for all. These are the very rights that are fundamental for a healthy democracy and socio-economic development. Yet, there are those who would gladly deny you, your wife, child or disabled relatives those rights on no other basis than fallacious arguments, intolerance and hate.

Written by Nicolas Winkler

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